See Through the Eyes of EVIL. “Dahmer” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

On February 15th, 2992, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted on murder, dismemberment, and sexual offenses on 17 young males.  Before then, Dahmer preyed on the desperate and the unsuspecting males living undisclosed in the then tabooed gay culture between 1978 and 1991.  Drugging, raping, killing, and then sometimes raping his victims posthumously became the Wisconsin serial killer’s unhinged obsession for companionship while working auspiciously as a chocolate factory warehouse worker.  Dahmer’s mind blossoms through the graphic dual prose narrative of events that circle around his lonely existence from a novice outcast drawn to kill to a calculating cold-blooded manhunter with deviant tendencies. 

Jeffrey Dahmer is one of those cerebral oddities you wish had a sight tube or a port hole to gape into and absorb the torrent of deranged thoughts in order to get a better understanding of how a serial killer’s mind functions and rationalizes vice and death as a sustainable life style.  Writer-director David Jacobson attempts to explain that very concept that sordid Dahmer’s visceral vision of the world around him in the 2002 interpretational blend of fact and fiction film, “Dahmer.”  Based on real events with some tweaks to protect the identities of real people, Jacobson’s crime biopic forces the uncomfortable measure of a bedeviled seduction, placing viewers in both the objective and subjective hot seat of Dahmer’s beginnings to his submersed praxis of his warped theoretical longings.  “Dahmer” is a production of a Peninsula Films, Inc., the same production company behind another serial killer biopic, Clive Saunders’ “Gacy,” a year later.

Surrounding the film, it’s been rumored that many actors don’t want anything to do with playing the titular sociopath; perhaps, Dahmer’s past scruples the filling of his size 10 shoes smeared with blood or, perhaps, exploring the dark caverns of his mind was too treacherous to traverse and come out unscathed from a crippling, crestfallen place of trauma.  Then, there’s Jeremy Renner.  Before his fame and fandom from “The Avengers” franchise, even before his breakout role in the pro-cop action blockbuster, SWAT, Jeremy Renner filled those monstrous size 10 shoes in the most quietest of ways, but the Hawkeye star’s skin-crawling version of a notorious killer he eerily takes a resemblance of provided that much more of a tactile insight into Dahmer’s inhuman nature.  Renner carries the film through two stages in Dahmer’s life, one being as an adolescent with homoerotic obsessions and deranged peculiarities whose living with his parents and grandmother while the other is paved by his own hands as an emotionless and manipulative rapist and murderer.  The distinct development is brilliantly illuminated by Renner’s understanding of Dahmer at certain stages of life.  Rounding out “Dahmer’s” cast is a fellow cinematic Marvel comics movie actor in Bruce Davison (“X-Men”) as Dahmer’s father, Lionel, Artel Great whose character is derived from real life Dahmer victim escapee, Tracey Edwards, and with Matt Newton, Dionysio Basco, and the late Kate Williamson adding their supportive performances.

Director David Jacobson didn’t want to explore and exploit the gory side of Jeffrey Dahmer’s tucked away carnage; instead, Jacobson dives into the psyche of Dahmer, molding human emotions around the sociopath who felt inadequate, if not also frightened, of his yearnings that propelled him to do the unspeakable acts of meticulous violence.  “Dahmer” obviously isn’t a true-to-fact biopic, regaling with colorful discourse and captivating with uncomfortable actions as filler to a near Hollywoodize stitching, but Jacobson did sprinkle with truth to fill in the mental gaps with interpretations of Dahmer’s connections with others, from family to victims.  Director of photography, Chris Manley, is able to capture the intensity with contrast lighting between young Dahmer and old Dahmer.  In Dahmer’s young life, the lighting is very natural, very bright, and very normal in a showcase of Dahmer’s mental space and, if we were not already enlightened about the serial killer’s, Dahmer would be just an usual misfit or a closeted homosexual with an obscure inkling to do more malevolency.  Only during scenes of mature Dahmer is the lighting saturated with hazy primary colors of blue, green, yellow, etc. that heighten madness and mark an ominous, dangerous presence inside the gay club or Dahmer’s apartment while everywhere else is in natural lighting.  A good companion piece to “Dahmer” is “My Friend Dahmer” directed by Marc Meyers that sought to visualize High Schooler Jeffrey Dahmer as an outlier spaz who desired attention to the point of making ruckuses in public places with other practical jokers and dived more into his obsession with eviscerating the local wildlife for curiosity and disolving them with his father’s chemistry concoctions, a nice little connective tissue between the two films. Watch Meyers’ “My Friend Dahmer” and Jacobson’s “Dahmer” in said order and while the two films are veritably different in style, each depiction captures a loner at heart with a minacious defense to feel, the very least, something by overpowering-to-death the unsuspecting prey.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s tactics were gruesome, perverse, and unsavory without question, but David Jacobson attempts the impossible of detaching the human from the monster in “Dahmer” that’s now being distributed onto Blu-ray by FilmRise and MVDVisual under their Marquee Collection. The High-Def, 1080p picture is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative film. While the upscaling looks fairly well achieved that seizes to put more life into the coloring, especially with those rich colorful shots in Dahmer’s later years, a good portion of 35mm negative sheens through with hairline scratches and the occasional blip of a cigarette burn. The overall delineation renders nicely with little-to-not soft edges and there doesn’t seem to be any cropping or edge enhancing. The English language DTS 5.1 Surround sound is as equally competent with clarity throughout the vocal track. There was too much depth or range to paint a picture, gaining a win by default with the conversing being held in tightly packed rooms or in extreme closeups of conversating duos. The musical score by Christina Agamanolis, Mariana Bernoski, and Willow Williamson haunts mostly like the caressing sounds of viper’s mellifluous tongue with breathy moans, irregular percussions, and a whisking uneasiness tune that sinks its teeth into you. The soundtrack is mixed with some monotonous club beats, doo-wop, and soft and classical alternative rock that include Patsy Cline, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Freddie Cannon. Bonus materials are a little antiquated with a making of featurette from back when the film was closer being first released, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, story boards, a red band and theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary by director David Jacobson and actors Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru. “Dahmer” doesn’t need to sell us on the diabolical nature of Jeffrey Dahmer, but what the film does do is formulate a systemic idea of who Dahmer disposes to be, as a loner, as a sufferer, and as a killer, underneath the skin of an average young white male.

Order “Dahmer” on Blu-ray!

Flesh Combustible EVIL Ore in “Primal Scream” reviewed! (Dark Force and Code Red / Blu-ray)


In the future of 1993, a privatized and powerful mining corporation is extracting a newfangled element cleaner and more abundant than any other energy source known to mankind, but the element, known as Hellfire, is also the most dangerous as it causing the human body to spontaneously ignite the internal organs in a heap of electro-combustion, searing the body from the inside out. A private detective is hired under the pretense of an affair scandal but becomes intertwined in a power struggle to harness complete control of Hellfire that leads from explosive skirmishes on a mining station on Saturn to the many charred bodies scorched by the unforgiving Hellfire on Earth and the investigator is caught in the middle behind a veil of cloak and dagger criminal conduct, searching for answers and the truth.

A gumshoe narrative with a caustic boost of flesh destroying flair, “Primal Scream” is the 1987 independent science fiction action epic from first time filmmaker William J. Murray and an equally tenderfoot crew buckling down for their inaugural ignition into full-length feature film space. More recently familiar with Murray’s work on the Jersey shore thriller, “Exit 0,” as the director of photography, the writer-director got his big start helming “Primal Scream,” also known originally as “Hellfire,” a planetary, melodramatic perusal also set in New Jersey, shot primarily on location in Atlantic City. The title change from “Hellfire” was the brainchild of the distributor who bought the rights to the film, claiming “Primal Scream” as a more marketable title, but with a name like “Hellfire,” the spaceship models, web of lies, and evil corporations detective story would have garnered an audience. “Primal Scream” is a production financed by a movie theater concession stand franchisee, Howard Foulkrod, looking to be a part of movie-making team.

Before working with Murray in “Exit 0” as a heedful bed and breakfast front desk attendant with a pervading cocksure attitude, New York born Kenneth McGregor first and foremost collaborated with the filmmaker on “Primal Scream” as a washed up police officer turned private dick Corby McHale that became McGregor’s debut lead role in the low-budget sci-fi feat. McGregor could carry the weight on such a profound role that required physicality from a browbeaten scoundrel that could attract young new love as well as re-attract his former affairs. However, I wasn’t especially sold on McHale’s love interest, Samantha Keller, who came off strong toting up a lip-giving and gritty female officer who has history with McHale. Sharon Mason dons the role with her lanky, on the gaunt side, appearance that could have elevated the role in a incongruous, yet positive, light, but Mason withers down to a lovestruck puppy besotted with McHale back in her life, losing that salt of the Earth edge that keeps her sharp in repelling the scum around her as a beat cop. Jon Maurice was a real presence on screen as a weary and angry captain on the force and maintains a mutual respect for his former office and friend, McHale, though doesn’t look it. In his only credited acting role, Maurice has the towering posture of “Dawn of the Dead’s” Ken Foree or “Candyman’s” Tony Todd with a resonating voice, a gospel actor, and compliments McHale’s unkept and insouciant façade. Rounding out the cast is Julie Miller, Stephen Caldwell, Edward N. Fallon, Joseph White, and timeless showman Mickey Shaughnessy in his last performance before death.

I find difficulty in thinking of one single aspect in where “Primal Scream” doesn’t deserve admiration. Do I think “Primal Scream” is a flawless attempt of a gargantuan dystopia of escapism? Not at the least, but for a pressurized, first time director, William Murray, his equally untried crew, and a cast of novice actors, the space ship model and pyrotechnics-laden gumshoe narrative palpitates wildly with tremendous heart for the amount of other intrinsic details that went into the feature, like the video phones and the ultramodern everyday vehicles, that didn’t produce a sensory overload of futuristic adornment and kept a practical milieu of face-to-face gambling bookies (location was set in Atlantic City after all) and ballistic projectile weapons despite a significant advancement in space travel. Hell, there’s even a sleek unrivaled-looking DeLorean in the first moments of the movie as a cherry on top. Granted, “Primal Scream” is set in 1993, nearly a decade outlook from production, and maybe undershot a realistic timeframe for interplanetary mining base construction. Another thing unclear is the story’s plasticity, murkily prefaced with a drop-in climax that is then refocused on the beginnings of Corby McHale’s seemingly diminutive hired involvement that leads to corruptive strife and dislodging of greed for the better of mankind. While trying to maintain a belief in the systemic universe the characters live in, the scenes are told through McHale as noted in the climatic introduction, but there are a few scenes outside that perspective box and don’t make filmic sense to the storytelling core. Ambitiously executed, “Primal Scream” dotes on films, such as “Blade Runner” or “Brazil,” of an Earth dystopian future and challenges us to totally recall our affection for the practical movie making magic.

In what I consider an odd release for Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red, I have to remind myself that William Murray’s “Primal Scream” is an oddity film with rich background and ludicrous-speed potential all around and makes a grand, high-definition Blu-ray debut distributed by MVDVisual. The region free release is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, from a rather preserved source. The picture maintains a stable course throughout with some flare ups of scratches, blemishes, cigarette burns, and omitted frame jumps that were nearly inherent with 35mm productions. Yet, the coloring is excellent and balance with no diluting edge enhancements or cropping. A forced English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix is a palpable mix that is clear and unfractured by distortions. There remains a constant, low-toned crackle and hum throughout the approx. 85 minute runtime, almost as if it’s electronic interference, but the mix maintains a par score that offers beveled depth and a resounding range of bombastic explosions and the snap, crackle, pop of skin being corroded and cooked by Hellfire. Special features include an audio a new commentary by director William Murray and crew as well as the same group in a Making of “Primal Scream” featurette “Made A Movie, Lived to Tell,” showcasing current interviews recollecting 30 years ago their experience in making, and surviving, their first movie. Also included is the “Hellfire” 1981 promo reel. “Primal Scream” is more down to Earth than it is pew-pewing in the inky expanse, paralleling the dangers of new and unexplored elements and mining procedures, such as fracking, with a sleuth story rigmarole to save man from not only destroying their corporeal selves, but also destroying their souls from corruption.

Own Primal Scream on Blu-ray today!

Let’s Ride the Ol’EVIL Succubus to Chastity High School in “Sadistic Eroticism” reviewed! “Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


At California’s Chastity High School, a strict and sadistic far-right facility body abuse and favor a select assembly of pupils, isolating the semi resembling studious teenagers, who wear black trench coats, innocently worship indie horror flicks, and the idea of women, to the whims to not only a rapist principal and a Nazi fascist assistant principal, but also suffer prolonged torment from the school’s popular kids. When one of the regular teachers slips, falls, and dies on a pool of ejaculate, a voluptuous and alluring substitute teacher, Ms. Lizz, fills in, hoping to become a permeant teacher at Chastity High, but Ms. Lizz has a three hundred year old secret being a vampiric succubus who lures in and possesses the popular, sex-crazed, hormone driven high school jocks who will do her bidding in abducting the beautiful high school sluts and for Ms. Lizz to drink their blood to retain immaculate beauty. Its up to three Troma loving and heroine doping geeks and an odd janitor to stop Ms. Lizz before she laps up slut blood and moves on to the next school.

Like a barrel full of doured high school rape jokes bubbling in a stasis of formaldehyde, the farcical cringe-worthy comedy-horror, “Sadistic Eroticism,” is the brain damaged brainchild from writer-director, Alex Powers, as his debut feature film shot entirely on VHS cassette that pays homage to the SOV horror of the early 1980’s, such as “Boarding House” or “Sledgehammer.” Powers, who went on to helm “GrossHouse” and its sequel, congeals on a slapstick of analogue digressions to introduce himself as an auteur filmmaker who, unrestrained, can exceed beyond the distinct hardline of political suitably that’s not only a testament toward the very title of the film, but also, perhaps, securing Powers on a number of studio blacklists unwilling to touch him with a single junk-destined email originating from the other ends of the Earth. Starchild Video serves as production company, which if entering “Starchild” and “Sadistic Eroticism” in the same search engine field, you’ll get a nice little stern warning about your search results involving child sex abuse and any images depicting such should be notified. Yikes.

More promising than the infamous history of the Hungarian noble woman, Elizbeth Bathory, to which “Sadistic Eroticism” properly appropriates it’s title and abstract character from, is the colorful, if not disdainfully charged, personalities teeming with a variety of depraved intentions and the entire cast embraces the full blown degenerate toxicity. More than likely, most of the cast list is made up of not household names like JD Fairman, James Coker, Nicholas Adam Clark and T.J. Akins as a black Nazi fascist hard up on Christian values and stern punishment. On the flipside of that coin, genre fans can root through the blurry, sometimes overexposed, tape recordings and find familiar faces of the then scruffy looking filmmaker James Cullen Bressack, writer-director of the popular indie found footage thriller “To Jennifer” and producer to the subsequent franchise films, “2 Jennifer,” “From Jennifer,” and “For Jennifer,” suited up in a shirt-sized Confederate flag as one of four high school bullies to fall under Ms. Lizz’s spell. The prolifically half-naked all the time indie actor, Michael Q. Schmidt (“The Pricks from Pluto Vs. The Vaginas from Venus”), straps on BDSM gear for a little sodomy counseling as Principal Buggary, “2001 Maniacs” Field of Screams” Miles Dougal slaps on a wife beater for some sleazy slumber party slime ball in a high school girl’s father role, and, of course, the lovely pornographic actress who branch out and take a break from oral sex, group sex, three-way kissing, and – oh wait – they do and simulate that in this Powers’ as well. Tori Avano, Imani Rose, and Jayden Starr are the three high school sluts who shameless flaunt their assets for Sophie Dee to snatch up and soul suck her way for anomalous aesthetics as a satanic form of cosmetic surgery. The latter actress, Sophie Dee, is endowed, more ways than one, with the role of the vampire-succubus Bathory, keeping well….well abreast her monotonic acting talents with her adult industry persona. All four ladies show an abundance of above waist skin and engage in some solo girl, boy-girl, boy-boy-girl, girl-girl-girl, boy-boy-boy-girl… and now I must sit down a rest my brain. Dou Waugh, Sto Strouss, Paymon Seyedi, Candis Higgins, Mel Martinez, Aaron Granillo, Matt Johnson, Ian Fisher, Jody Barton, and Yajaira Bardales round out the cast.

Jokes and slapstick humor disassociated, “Sadistic Eroticism” still relates to the Elizabeth Bathory backstory told on VHS through a tube television presentation of Ms. Lizz’s abnormal history subjects. The succubus creature is nothing less than a buxom beaut that undresses with her feminine wiles zombifying men to do her bidding without her lifting a finger to break a nail against the hypersexualized school girls; yet, to show this century’s old cacodemon as provocatively dressed and to skim around bellying up the tension isn’t quite enough to sell the dominance an ancient evil should be wielding like she owns the whole damn school. There’s more of visceral presence of evil between Principal Buggary and Assistant Principal Defur and though they’re also vaguely under the influence of the succubus, their combined power is the epitome of “Sadistic Eroticism.” The script, characters, and subject material are indicative of Alex Powers attempting to reel in Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma slum-empire to purchase and distribute the filmmaker’s squawking lechery of a film and yet, perhaps, the Troma acquisition team also saw too much of a yawn-fest to bare the Troma brand as the nearly two hour runtime sluggishly relies too hard on being incoherently schlocky to be coalescing competent to make sense. “Sadistic Eroticism” is more masochistic in it’s ostentatiousness to desensitize power and rape and call it comedy, but rocks a mean cast of players from all walks of life to be a mean-spirited take of The Blood Countess.

Open your lesson books and get ready to be schooled by the twisted and obscene in Wild Eye Releasing’s re-release of “Sadistic Eroticism” on the label’s Raw and Extreme banner, distributed by MVDVisual. The region free, unrated release is presented in a SOV full frame of 4:3 aspect ratio. Tracking is the least of the problems with this uncouth image presentation rendered from pillar to post quality of warm tinges, severe color corrections required, and gauche details emblematic of cassettes, but all that was Alex Powers intended design to relive in the era of SOV. However, there are some less than stellar, even for SOV, that negate the effort, such as high contrast and poor lighting nearly blanking out darker scenes and the entire climatic end has a neon purple border and the scenes are also recorded in an awful tint of purple, making the entire finale be seen through Grimace vision. To top it off, the jagged opening titles, credits, and crooked visual composites are nearly discernible. The English language mono track is touch and go, mostly go as dialogue wanders into a deaden muffle and is also drowned out by a stock score tracks. There’s not much range or depth as much of the audio is picked up by the poor quality of the VHS handheld mics as exhibited on the special features, which include a director’s commentary and a behind the scenes hosted by that James Coker, who does a pretty good engaging the actors for the in-the-face interviews to explain their characters, scenes, and just overall thoughts with porn starlets and actors milling about or in takes. Sophie Dee’s bosomy eye-catchers, Tori Avano’s star-shaped nipples, Imani Rose’s vivacious sexual appetite and a stockpile of lewd, crude, and nude wets the very foundational whistle of “Sadistic Eroticism” bungled in a sloppy heap of first time filmmaking.

Order “Sadistic Eroticism” on DVD at Amazon!

When Music Videos Go EVIL! “The Backlot Murders” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red / Blu-ray)


After a night of drinking that ends in breaking a bottle over the bar owner’s head, a struggling and internally conflicted rock band kicks out the cancerously unhinged and troublesome member before their rise to stardom. Unfortunately, all the talent went out door along with the excommunicated band member, forcing the band to impress with an extravagant music video shot on Universal’s iconic backlot, sponsored by their agent and the lead singer’s girlfriend’s music mogul father. Instead of intense pyrotechnics and scantily cladded female groupies dancing on their crotch, the band, their girlfriends, and the crew find themselves caught in the gloomy, labyrinth-like movie lot, housing spooky interior and exterior sets, unaware the lurking murderous manic taking them out one-by-one.

By far a polar opposite polished genre film than the sadistically raw brutal rape and murder extravaganza that was “Chaos,” writer and director David “The Demon” DeFalco dabbles in the early 2000’s revival of the slasher genre with his 2002 released feature “The Backlot Murders” in the wake of the widespread success of the “Scream” franchise. In much of the same way “Chaos” came to fruition derived from “Last House on the Left,” DeFalco, once again, finds inspiration in the form of cult horror director Wes Craven. However, DeFalco strays away from the meta-horror and trope-reversal techniques and replaces it with a satirical façade of the music industry where glam is more important than meaningful substance. The slasher-comedy carves up nods to Van Halen, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, and even Elvis Presley with a horrendously skewed mask version the killer wears. “The Backlot Murders” were co-written by Paul Arensburg and Steven Jay Bernheim with the latter writer serving also as co-producer with DeFalco in association with Dominion Entertainment.

A contributing factor to “Scream’s” success was the diverse in career cast that clicked together as well as twisting archetypical roles into atypical whammy that veered audiences to the edge of their seats. “Scream” shocked audiences with the immediate death of a well-known actress right out of the gate, nabbed “Friends’” star Courteney Cox, “SLC Punk” and “Hackers” actor Matthew Lilliard, teen heartthrob Skeet Urlich, one of the Arquettes with David Arquette, and, perhaps, would have guaranteed Neve Campbell a slab of concrete for the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with an already cemented label as a scream queen and a final girl. The same eclecticism could be transfixed by “The Backlot Murders’” acquisitions but on a more obscure scale with a cast from all walks of life that includes the Roger Rabbit voice actor himself, Charles Fleischer, “Three’s Company” star Priscilla Barnes, 1997’s Playboy Playmate Carrie Stevens, and the late Corey Haim (“The Lost Boys”) as the band’s guitarist in a role that seemed below his fame stature. Most gaps are plugged with interesting characters treated with some backstory buildup that becomes more stagnant than footfall companions in order to get to know them better before their demise, but their persona conductors include Brian Gaskill (“The Bloody Indulgent”), Tom Hallick, Jaime Anstead, Dayton Knoll, Lisa Brucker, Ken Sagoes (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), LoriDawn Messuri, Angela Little, and Tracy Dali.

“The Backlot Murders” didn’t set out to revolutionize the slasher genre, but only relished in the after success and donned a more satire effort that purposefully retreated back into the conventional tropes to form an entertaining run of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll gags, but the one thing missing, and it’s a doozy, is the actual killer presence in the film who is treated as an afterthought of slim importance and chucked into a insignificant plot twist that forces DeFalco’s hand to become a routine hack’n’slash lemming. One positive aspect of “The Backlot Murders” is the extremely high body count that produces a continuous stream of nixing off a slew of characters with their own death scenes inside the renowned confines of a Universal backlot backdrop that’s not only good-humored irony but also a sizeable effort by the Bernheim/DeFalco producing team. Yet, despite the high body count, the kills and gore felt sorely uninspired and underwhelming, rehashing into homage death scenes from “Friday the 13th” and “Scream” with a few forgettable approaches to call its own, until DeFalco breaks the damning goreless streak with a gruesome Columbian necktie effect that goes for the throat. I make “The Backlot Murders” seem unenjoyable and heartless when, in fact, the early 2000 slasher-comedy is immensely funny with a Charles Fleisher gold recorded, laugh track amongst the relentless mocking of the music industry from a far in this true to form slasher accessorized with a high body count kill dozer of a villain.

When things are quiet on set, “The Backlot Murders” evoke the slasher spirit on a new-to-Blu Blu-ray release in the U.S. from Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red with MVDVisual handling distribution. The 1080p, hi-def release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen from a brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The cool contextual colors render nicely amongst the shadowy gloom and foggy backdrop that’s reminiscent of a softly lit late 90’s and early 2000s slasher. The textures are sharper than the Razor Digital DVD release; the tactile feeling of asphalt when a bluish white glow hits the pavement or the gritty backlot sets vibrant with an ominous glow strike powerful chords of a lively presence from the transfer. There doesn’t seem to be any cropping, edge enhancing, or any other manipulation to the transfer present. The English mono track, which leans away from the LFE, has the opposite, lackluster appeal with a single channel blockade that doesn’t project the bands pyrotechnics, the screams of being chased, and settling for limitations on other wide range of girthy resounding audio. However, the dialogue is clear, unobstructed, and in the forefront. Bonus material includes a new audio commentary with director David DeFalco and Code Red’s Banana Man plus three new and very bizarre interviews with Carrie Stevens lingering from effects of the #MeToo movement to making home fudge, with Charles Fleisher and dissociative disorder or madman genius insight, and ending with a fairly regular interview with Brian Gaskill recollecting the film and his career through a tough industry standard. The Fleisher and Gaskill interviews end with a video op with The Demon himself, David DeFalco. “The Backlot Murders” had forefront potential of systemic slasher films of the time period, but pitter-patters for levity and a sweeping kill count that reconstructs the dread into death and comedy.

“The Backlot Murders” on Prime Video!

A Lake Swimming With EVIL Off of “Mermaid Isle” reviewed! (WWMM and MVDVisual / DVD)


On a nearby island with an infamous past, four friends come to dock on the island from a pleasure craft cruise to explore the adjacent and serene lake surrounded by woods. What was supposed to be a fun, relaxing, and romantic getaway turns frantic when one of them accidently falls into the lake and is bitten by a mysterious unseen creature in knee high water. With a storm brewing and the bite affects worsening, the group takes shelter inside a seemingly abandoned lakeside cabin receiving an unwelcome and surprise greeting from an old woman who immediately wants to kill the injured party, but is bitten during the small skirmish and kills herself in total fear. Bewildered, the group remains in refuge from the storm, sleeping through the worst winds and rain only to wake up to find the injured and one other friend missing. Their search brings them back to the lake where they discover once bitten, there’s no saving you as the lake is a breeding ground for vicious, blood hungry mermaids, spreading their transformative contagion with a single bite. As the survivors contemplate next steps, the old woman’s delinquent adult son returns home to find mother dead and sets out to kill her murder.

Popping my mermaid horror cherry with the Jason Mills’ ravenous take on the mythical half-human, half-aquatic creature feature, “Mermaid Isle,” released in 2020. The writer-director debuted his first genre feature back in 2009 with an attic dwelling creature terrorizing an unsuspecting and already fragile and distraught family in “Above Us Lives Evil,” also more commonly known as “They Came from the Attic,” but it wasn’t until 2015 when “Above Us Evil Lives” came across our critical lap and was reviewed rather favorably for the filmmaker’s first credited venture with the following excerpt observing Mills as a “promising” director with “attributes that can contribute to the horror community” through the “strategical” use of knitting visual FX work with practical prosthetics to supply an effective heinous attic monster on a penny pinching purse string. Over a decade later, Mills continued his successful ability to turn around project after project of independent b-horror that includes the markings of spiraling madness with “The Changing of Ben Moore,” a joint home and alien invasion thriller with “Alone We Are Not,” and even tackling the mysterious and carnage-laden mythical sasquatch in “Bigfoot Country.” The director’s latest sea-faring fiends maintain the basic principle features of a fabled mermaid: an alluring, half-naked maiden on the top half with a marine flipper-tail at the bottom. Yet, “Mermaid Isle” explores the darker side of the mermaid mythology with a schlocky, self-funding of the plagued island concept with his own production company, Millspictures Studios.

“Mermaid Isle” is very character dependent to push the story along and toward the secluded residing lake since the story concept doesn’t involve any victims to be wound up stranded, buoying in the water, and surrounded by deadly and infectious mermaids creating a filthy amount of dire circumstances of harrowing survival. Instead, we doggie paddle along with bland, monotonous, and uninteresting characters played by bland, monotonous, and uninteresting actors riding the only wave of substance of the lead character (Mark Reinhardt) being rejected upon his proposal to his short term girlfriend (Kristina Soroff). The other two in the group, an assertive goth (“Bigfoot Country’s” Kiana Passmore) and tagalong friend (Samuel Buchanon), offer little to warrant their survival as they’re targeted for either mermaid chum or to be marked for warped evolution. The young cast never click together as on screen friends or form a frantic group with a correlating enemy, but rather seem underwhelmed by the lake inhabited by evil mermaids being the source of their dilemma. There was much more interested in the double sided danger foreboding around the old woman (Elinor Walker) and her bad new son (Dan Martinez), whose mysterious ruffian background surfaces to the top as he’s eager to turn his newfangled life of a straighten arrow path is squashed back into the miscreant he was once was by hunting down those responsible for his mother’s death, but that also fizzles into oblivion. Hope for the character emerges when he declares, “time to do some bitch fishing,” as an oath to, once again, contain the mermaid contagion from spreading by some noble crusade of, oh, I don’t know, spear fishing the hell out of the creatures or taking a dive into the depths of the unknown and do a little hand-to-flipper combat. Sadly, “Mermaid Isle” continues to miss chances rewarding viewers with potential much needed plights. The film rounds out with Liam Tait, Austin Richards, and Garnet Campbell in some unresolved, barely associating epilogue set four months later.

“Mermaid Isle” struggles to come up for air as an exalting mermaid horror, especially being released in 2020 amongst a sea of competing indie interests. Yet, Mill’s story spans over three and half decades beginning with a backstory, told through the words of newspaper clippings from 1983, honing in around a prefacing story of a father and son being murdered by a mermaid bitten daughter and transforms to ravage portion of the family. While the news clipping claim hoax, the mother, the old woman, who we visit in the story later at the cabin, is shuttled off by authorities to a psychiatric ward because of her rant and ravings about killer mermaids. While the slightly crafty, yet also chintzy soaked way to setup the film is engrossing enough to keep us interested at the start, the small budget stiffens any kind of any remotely rudimentary devices to then mingle man versus unnatural nature in a project too big for the budget’s britches. Further reaffirmations assume the assigning of multiple hats amongst the crew and cast, including Kiana Passmore is also the first assistant director, Garnet Campbell is the line producer, and the Mills and the Passmore families extending their services as credited Crafty and Location scouts. The story logical capsizes the moment the movie is popped into the player. For instance, the movie is entitled “Mermaid Isle,” but the Island is adjacent to a river and on the other side of that river is a lake so the premise really has nothing to do with the island, but rather a lake. The DVD back cover mentions the four friends attempting to conjure (spelled conjueron the back cover); yet, there’s none of that conjuring jazz and nothing to affix the detached epilogue to the rest of the film, as previous stated. Lastly, the DVD front cover has more gore, more skin, and even a shark in the water. Low and behold, none of those enamors exists. I will say this about “Mermaid Isle,” the mermaid itself looks convincing, obscured enough around the seams and the physical fish tale to pull off an effective mermaid creature with pitch black eyes and a face flush with hunger.

If feeling adventurous, jump into the deadly waters of Jason Mills’ “Mermaid Isle” on DVD courtesy of World Wide Multimedia Entertainment, an affiliate of Alchemy Works, and MVDVisual. The not rated, 80 minute feature, is presented in a widescreen presentation, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and the overall video image quality is not too terrible, but lacks breadth of color, compressing the details of the woods, the rocky lake shore, the old cabin, and the snow-covered trees more favorably than would have expected. Some aliasing during more actiony sequences in the water with the mermaid swimming. The English language 5.1 surround sound mix is a complete lackluster in regards to dialogue. The muffled vocals are nearly indiscernible levels for more than half the dialogue track and heavily overshadowed by ambient mix and, a bright spot on the release, the Thomas Beckman viola that almost feels too Renaissance to be paired with “Mermaid Isle.” Aside from a static menu with chapters, there were no special features included. Having no point of refence having never seen “The Lure,” “She Creature,” or even “The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead,” “Mermaid Isle” sinks the aquatic humanoid subgenre deep into Davy Jones locker for greenhorn viewers, but bares intrigue at times with the idea of a menacingly unfathomable creature stirring in the blue waters, sloshing up enough to give you the creeps and not bother with the movie itself.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWcq9bQGb6I]

“Mermaid Isle” available on DVD. Click the poster.